City to re-bid LL sports field project
By Craig Howard
The starting date for the first phase of the Liberty Lake Sports Fields has landed just outside the foul line.
At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, City Administrator Katy Allen told the governing board that construction of the much-anticipated site would need to be re-bid due to a protest by one of three companies vying for the project.
"The third lowest bidder has protested the bid and in reviewing the RCW (state law), if the protest is legitimate, we cannot award the bid," Allen said.
Allen explained that the snag occurred when a separate line item for excavation work was left out of the original bid. While AM Landshaper Inc. came in with the lowest bid at a sum within the city's budget, the entire process will now reconvene at the starting line later this month. Allen said she hoped to have an announcement on the awarded bid at the Oct. 29 council meeting.
Welch Comer Engineers, the Coeur d'Alene firm involved in the design of the project, will absorb the rebidding cost. Meanwhile, awarding of the design and construction of the second phase of the Sports Fields to Welch Comer was also tabled on Tuesday for consideration at a later date.
In June, council voted to move ahead with development of the western portion of a 20-acre lot purchased from the Central Valley School District last year. The plan calls for a pair of baseball diamonds, a picnic shelter, concrete walking paths and 79 parking spaces with a total price tag of $800,000. At the same meeting, council checked off on Welch Comer to design the first phase of the work at a cost of $44,000.
On Tuesday, Allen said numbers are still being crunched on the second phase of the project – to include flexible sports fields – with a goal of including cost estimates in the 2014 budget process. Council has identified the development of the eastern plot as one of three municipal priorities for next year.
While Allen shed light on the status of future sports fields Tuesday night, another topic on the city administrator's agenda required some illumination of the solar variety.
Since mid-August, the city has been talking with a company called Western Renewable Energy about a project that would add solar panels to the building that houses the Liberty Lake Municipal Library and the Liberty Lake Police Department. Allen told council on Tuesday that a feasibility study and design work would cost the city $4,000, followed by another $11,000 if the project moved forward.
All of the expenditures on the city's side would eventually be reimbursed following installation of the panels. The overall cost of the project has been estimated at $750,000.
Investors in renewable energy projects involving public buildings like a library, City Hall or police station are able to earn tax credits while the municipal entity realizes significant savings in utility charges. Allen said the police/library project "could take the building off the grid."
Allen noted that Western Renewable Energy had recently completed installation of solar panels on the campus of Whitworth University and cities like Spokane and Spokane Valley are currently looking into similar projects.
In addition to a scenario that "would mean no power bill at the end of the day," according to Allen, the Liberty Lake Library Foundation, a certified 501-c3 organization, would benefit from the arrangement by collecting funds from investors in the project, loaning it back to them and collecting the interest.
"This is a $750,000 project, and you're getting it for free," said Pat Dockrey, a member of the library foundation board who spoke in support of the installation on Tuesday. "I think it's worth spending the $4,000."
Reservations were expressed by some council members hesitant about the city potentially being stuck with a $4,000 bill if the work did not transpire.
"Maybe they (Western) should pay the $4,000 and we can reimburse them," said Council Member Keith Kopelson.
Kopelson – who was joined by fellow council members Cris Kaminskas and Josh Beckett in expressing concern about the delay in council being informed about the project as well as the upfront cost – also questioned Allen about whether or not the city had negotiated the price for the feasibility study and design. Allen acknowledged that Western had first discussed a cost of $6,250.
Last year, City Council members agreed to grant Mayor Steve Peterson authority to approve any expenditure of $5,000 or less without a council vote.
"We feel we've done our due diligence on this," Allen said. "We wanted to have our ducks in a row before we came to council."
With no council approval required for the $4,000 expenditure, the governing board backed off from its opposition. Allen said she would provide council members with a letter and an analysis report from Western today.
"At the end of the day, there is no specific ask of the council," Beckett said. "Let's just keep our fingers crossed that this doesn't fall through."
Council Member Shane Brickner thanked Allen, the mayor and staff for bringing forward the issue even when Peterson could have signed off on the expense without discussion.
"This shows the transparency we're trying to move forward with," Brickner said.
In other city news:
• Council heard a report from Kevin Wallace, executive director of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, on the agency's 20-year transportation plan known as "Horizon 2040." Wallace said the document would address the diverse transportation needs of the community while placing a priority on economic vitality and job growth. Public comment on the plan will begin Oct. 18 with the SRTC board expected to grant its approval by Dec. 12. Peterson is currently serving as chair of the board.
• Bob Wiese and fellow members of the Fallen Heroes Circuit Course committee gave a report of the ribbon cutting ceremony at the first installment in Rocky Hill Park on Sept. 21, thanking the mayor, council and city staff for their support of the project. The course will eventually consist of five installments honoring each branch of the military with the next feature planned for Pavillion Park.
• Council unanimously approved the second reading of Ordinance No. 207, amending the city development code and the River District Specific Area Plan Overlay. The list of 14 amendments had been recommended by the Planning Commission.
• Bob Schneidmiller, chairman of the Friends of Pavillion Park, announced that the ticket price for the FOPP Holiday Ball in December will be reduced from $100 to $75. The event serves as the organization's main fundraiser for the park's summer concert series. Schneidmiller also said that FOPP has begun seeking sponsorship support from local businesses for specific events during the summer. Schneidmiller called 2013 at the park "the best year ever."
• Council unanimously approved an interfund loan for Harvard Road Mitigation Funds. Finance Director R.J. Stevenson said the loan will be utilized for two objectives – to fund the Harvard Road roundabout project and as a match for the Local Infrastructure Financing Tool.
• Allen announced that a ribbon cutting for the roundabout will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 25 in the parking lot of True Legends Grill.
• Council unanimously approved the second reading of Ordinance No. 208, establishing Aquifer Protection Fund 411. The fund will include the city's portion of revenue from a $15 fee per household earmarked for protection of the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.
• Allen passed along the recommendation of the city's salary commission regarding compensation for elected officials. The pay for mayor has been advised to increase from $750 to $1,250 per month, with council salaries going from $250 to $400 per month. There is a 30-day window for public feedback on the recommendations, expected to be included as part of the 2014 budget. The salary commission will provide a detailed report at the Nov. 5 council meeting.
• Brickner applauded city staff and, in particular, Planning and Building Services Manager Amanda Tainio, for quick reaction to a business that was going door-to-door throughout the city last Friday. The company had not received permission from the city and was told to refrain from further canvassing.
• Peterson is expected to present his 2014 municipal budget at the next council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at City Hall.